Basic upholstery is another great DIY skill.  I just finished re-covering two chairs for my family room.  It was one of the few upholstery project I have done.  Most my earlier re-covering efforts were limited to slip covers.  I’ll give you a little sneak peek at the end of the post.

I have a love/hate relationship with upholstery.  I hate removing staples.  I love choosing fabric to makeover a piece.  I love saving money through DIY.  If you begged me to help you with an upholstery project, I would definitely say no.  I would only possibly consider it if you removed all the old fabric and staples.  But then, I would probably still say no because I am a total amateur.

Upholstery is a dirty job.  Not in a get your hands dirty way, but in a hard, hard work kind of way.  I spent the last two days crawling around the floor, pulling staples, cutting fabric, sewing, stretching fabric, and stapling.  But when all was said and done, I was able to recover to chairs for $40 in fabric…totally worth it.

My roundup today includes all the basic upholstery tools I have in my arsenal.  These are not pro upholstery tools.  These are the tools a DIYer would use.  All of them are available at a home center/hardware store and a fabric store.  These are tools you can use to recover existing furniture and assume the piece has all the foam, batting, and webbing in tact.

DIY Upholstery Tools

1.  Tack Puller – This is a must have!  When I started working on the chairs, I thought I could make do with a screwdriver for prying up staples and pliers for pulling them out.  I was so wrong.  There were hundreds of staples.  I ran to Home Depot and bought this tack puller.  It made the job easier and faster.

2.  Heavy Duty Staple Gun – This was my first staple gun.  It is low-tech, but works well.  My only complaint is I find it hard to staple with one hand while stretching fabric with the other.  This gun takes more manual strength than I have.  The upside is this stapler is quieter than my electric one, for when I have to do any after bedtime projects.

3.  Electric Staple Gun – I have had this staple gun on loan so long from my mom, I think she went out and replaced it.  This tool was invaluable for quickly stapling the new fabric on my chairs.  This stapler is load enough to scare my dog away while I am working.

4.  Long Nose Plier – These are handy for pulling out staples.  Sometimes the staples break when you try to remove them.  These pliers get into tight places and can grab the tiniest bits of a staple sticking out.  I like to grasp the end of the staple sticking out, then pull and turn the pliers to remove.  The staple bit ends up wrapped around the nose of the pliers.

5.  Folding Hex Key – Another name for really cool allen wrench.  My chairs had bolts holding on the back legs.  I had to remove them to get the seat fabric off.  I love this allen wrench, with every size you will ever need.  Also comes in handy for assembling Ikea furniture…this guy is so much more comfortable to grip than those tiny disposable allen wrenches.

6.  Tack Hammer – Sometimes your stapler won’t drive the staple all the way in.  The tack hammer is perfect for tapping the staple the rest of the way in.  I also like using a tack hammer for installing picture hangers…so much better than wielding a full size hammer.

7.  Double-Face Soft Mallet – A small rubber mallet is great for installing nailhead trim.

8.  Nailhead Trim – I have yet to try one of these trim kits, but I hear they are the best way to add nailhead trim.  These kits are like a ribbon of nailheads.  You just tap a matching nail in every few inches.  These trim kits are ideal for getting a nice straight nailhead line.

9.  Decorative Smooth Head Nails – I have used these.  These are loose nailheads.  You have to tap each one in individually.  They are great for small nailhead jobs, like trimming around the leg of a chair.  They are also nice when you want to space the nailheads out.

10.  Cotton Piping – I have a few lengths of this on hand.  Cotton piping is what you encase in fabric to create piping.  I have always liked making my own piping, because the only piping you can buy at the fabric store is super tiny and in limited colors.  I just made the piping for my chair covers this morning, but I used the cotton piping from the old chair covers.

There are a few other things you need for upholstery…like a sewing machine and scissors.  You can check out my Sewing DIY Tools board for all my sewing necessities.

And, as promised…here is a peek at my newly recovered chairs:

The chairs look so much better now.  Take a look at the almost embarrassing coral paisley before fabric.  More details on my chairs coming soon!

The opinions in this post are my own.  I was not compensated for writing this post or any of the opinions contained within it.  This post contains affiliate links.   I may receive a commission on purchases made after following an affiliate link.  




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3 Responses to DIY Tools: Upholstery

  1. Jane says:

    I have a small loveseat with tufts that needs to be redone. Everyone says to just buy new, but this piece is so unique that I can’t part with it.

    Do you know of anyone or business in the Twin Cities that you could recommend or heard about? I’ve asked several friends/family and everyone who used to do it, no longer does.

    any help appreciated.

  2. Wow. Great job on your chair. Is that microfiber?

  3. luna says:

    Great list you have here! I am planning on learning how to do upholstery and picking up the right tools is the first step for me.

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